How many of us would love to quit our jobs, leave everything behind, and just travel? It may seem like a farfetched dream to most of us, but for Zahariz, it was one dream he made come true.
The Malaysian adventurer, photographer and a filmmaker left his routine life and comfort zone to travel the world in search of priceless life experiences that he felt could not be found at his desk job. Ever since 2010, he does this by living on the road, calling the road his home, leading a nomadic life and seeing the 21st century world through the eyes of a nomad.
Zahariz has cycled across two continents, spanning across approximately 28,000 kilometres. He also did a solo expedition on cross-country ski, crossing Finland and Norway and horseback riding across Kyrgyzstan.
Have Bicycle, Will Travel
I met up with Zahariz recently when he returned home for the Raya holidays. On his journey, he explained, “Back in 2010, I was getting bored and jaded working in an office in Kuala Lumpur. I wanted something different from my life, I wanted to get out of the city. Of course, money was a factor as I would need a high budget to travel to the kind of destinations I was thinking about, such as deserts in China and mountaintops in the Middle East. I started to think, and the idea began to grow. I realized that I could save money by travelling by unconventional transport, meaning walking, cycling, hitchhiking, whatever!”
The gutsy man embarked on his first solo trip in Chendu, China, planning to travel on bicycle only. He wasn’t bothered by the brand or mechanics of the bike, he simply wanted something affordable and reliable. He picked up a bike from a shop and after a few failed attempts, managed to tie all his film and personal gear to the bike and headed out into the desert.
The adventurer journey was documented, and eventually edited and released into a Malay-language travelogue documentary series, entitled ‘Dengan Basikal Aku Menjelajah’, translated to mean “With my bicycle, I travel.” Four seasons were produced and they have been aired multiple times on one of Malaysia’s local TV stations, TV Alhijrah (Astro 114), and Suria channel in Singapore. Only approximately 5% of his extensive footage made it into the documentary.
The fascinating series shows the struggles and sheer tenacity it takes to put your body through harsh temperatures, along with carrying kilograms of heavy filming gear, and trying to find or make food. In the series, Zahariz shares tips on how to survive in less-than-favourable conditions, such as carrying enough water, rationing food, boiling snow to make water or soup, how to sleep, and so on.
The documentary has won awards for “Best Documentary” at the ‘Anugerah Skrin 2014’ and ‘Anugerah Sri Angkasa 2016’ , Malaysia’s prestigious accolades in film, and ‘People’s Choice Award’ at the BMW Shorties 2013. You can check out a ‘Behind the Scenes’ video here.
“There were times during my first journey where I just wanted to quit and go home. But where would I put my face? I had told everyone about what I was going to do, left my job, sold my car. I had to persevere or face terrible judgement and shame. I’ve come close to dying many times,” he said with a laugh.
What Zahariz really enjoys about his adventures are not just the beautiful scenery, but meeting people along the way. “Although I head out alone, I’m actually not always alone the whole way. I realized early on that there are many solo travellers just like me, heading for the same adventures. It’s always better to travel with others so usually when I meet other hikers or travellers along the way, we will journey together. It’s great as we learn so much from each other, about our past experiences and different cultures. Even if it’s just a short while, it’s nice to have the company.”
During one of his trips to Kyrgyzstan, Zahariz met the love of his life and they eventually wed. He lives there with his wife and two children when he is not living the nomadic life.
His Next Adventure
Zahariz is currently working on a new documentary, an Explorer’s Diary, a unique travelogue which documents his authentic experiences with the people whom he meets along the way. From his experiences so far, he realises that in order to learn more about a certain tribe or native, he will need to immerse himself into the community. He needs to be a part of them so as to acquire knowledge and skills which are peculiar only to that tribe/native.
By doing a solo expedition, it is easier for him to gain acceptance and trust of that exclusive community. Since there will be an abundance of knowledge which he is convinced to obtain, he does not require a planned script or storyboard, however, the originality of the content is his utmost priority.
His main aim for this new documentary is to create awareness, educate and allow his audience to appreciate the diversity of cultures that exist beyond the scope of one’s ordinary experiences. He hopes to film and catch the nuances of humanity’s remarkable existence in his making of ‘Going Solo’. Check out the trailer:
The first season, ‘Uncovering the Pacific’, will cover an underwater expedition. Zahariz says, “With the composite of 70% being ocean in our sphere, there is an abundance of information to be revealed from within the underwater world. Equipped with zero knowledge, I will embark on this underwater expedition to uncover its wealth. I also plan to explore the tiny islands surrounding the Pacific like those in Indonesia, Solomon, Fiji, Samoa, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, just to name a few.”
The underlying concept behind the documentary will be depicted through his personal experiences while sailing, diving, and immersing himself in the variety of culture of the different island natives.
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